Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman reports.
The Evening Standard has published a fulsome apology to Isabella Freeman, who is Assistant Chief executive of our borough, and in charge of our legal services. The newspaper, edited by Sarah Sands and owned by Russian oligarch, Evgeny Lebedev, claimed back in May that Isabella Freeman had ‘blamed Muslim voters for alleged voter fraud in the borough’ and had ‘showed a lack of care about alleged voter fraud in Tower Hamlets and was involved in a deliberate cover-up’. I wrote to the proprietor, Mr Lebedev, of the Evening Standard at the time, inviting him to visit our borough, to see things for himself. He did not see fit to reply.
The newspaper has now been forced to accept that its allegations were entirely untrue. Instead it accepted that our council has the most robust systems and processes permitted under election law to ensure the integrity of the electoral register and identify any malpractice. It also accepted that our borough electronically scans 100 per cent of postal votes and rejects any that have non matching signatures.
These deeply damaging and utterly false claims were published by the Evening Standard at the height of an obvious campaign by Sarah Sands and the Evening Standard to support the Boris Johnson Mayoral campaign. The Evening Standard wished to convey the impression that voter fraud was rife in our borough, and therefore could, in a tightly fought election, influence the result. The false claims about Isabella Freeman came after weeks of sustained hostile reporting from the Evening Standard, which included late night doorstepping and harassment of senior council officials by Evening Standard journalists.
The editor of the Evening Standard, Sarah Sands, took a personal interest in running stories that were both highly critical and inaccurate. Sadly, there were others, including Conservative leader, Councillor Peter Golds, who were more than happy to assist the Evening Standard in its disgraceful campaign.
Isobella Freeman has rightly been vindicated of all of the claims made by the Evening Standard. I am delighted that the newspaper has been obliged to apologise, although this will do little to undo the personal damage it has already caused.
I look forward to hearing the editor of the Evening Standard has apologised to Isabella Freeman, in person.
See also Evening Standard, 15 August 2012